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It's the night before Christmas for five families in the Toledo area.
But it's going to be a really long night - from now until Sept. 7, when Santa will arrive in the form of a crew from the ABC reality show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. Over the following week, their old home will be leveled and cleared away, and a new one will go up in an episode that will be shown sometime in November.
Each show begins on the morning when team leader Ty Pennington and other designers surprise the chosen family, and ends when the family is brought back to see their new home. It airs locally at 8 p.m. Sundays on WTVG-TV, Channel 13, which announced the local project yesterday on Action News Good Morning.
"All five know that they are finalists," Conrad Ricketts, executive producer of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, said later yesterday morning. He spoke by phone from Detroit Metro, where he and senior producer Diane Korman were waiting for a flight back to Los Angeles after spending a couple of days in Toledo.
"Our family casting group talks to the families," he added, noting that an average of three to five months of background work takes place leading up to the selection of finalists.
Ricketts said he couldn't reveal any information about the local families, saying that he didn't know.
There were hundreds of nominations from the Toledo area, he went on. "This will be the 128th family we've helped."
The show's sixth season begins Sept. 28. "We have 15 million to 17 million viewers every week," both children and adults, Ricketts said. "We have been in the top 20 consistently for the last five years."
The Extreme Makeover timetable looks like this: The family is sent away on vacation the day after the crew's surprise visit. The old house is packed up, then demolished on the Tuesday of that week. Then comes a volunteer army - carpenters, plumbers, electricians, drywallers, painters, landscapers, other skilled tradespeople, and citizens who just want to help.
"It can take 900 to 1,200 subs and trades and several thousands of volunteers," Ricketts said. Anyone who wants to donate time or materials to the project is asked to send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
They have 106 hours to get the job done. "It typically takes builders four months to build a house," Ricketts said. With the 106-hour schedule, "every hour is the equivalent of a day's worth of trade, and every day is the equivalent of one month of building."
Everything is donated to the project, he said. This will be the show's first appearance in Toledo, but homes have been built in the Columbus, Youngstown, and Cincinnati areas.
The family will be brought back to the house on Sept. 14.
Ricketts compared the makeover to old-fashioned barn-raising, "where your neighbors and friends and community come together to help you. For so long those days have been gone. One of the strengths of this show is that it affirms that we still care for each other."
Volunteers benefit along with the family, he continued.
"Everyone comes into it thinking they're going to change a family's life, but in the process they change their own life."
Contact Ann Weber at: email@example.com or 419-724-6126.